The show must go on – even when the world has ended and zombies and monsters roam wild. But in this new world order, why restrict your band to just the stage, when you can take your show on the road? In Double Kick Heroes, you play the drummer of one of the few surviving metal bands in the world, touring the United States and blasting away zombies with heavy metal.
Double Kick Heroes is developed and published by the appropriately named Headbanger Club. It’s a rhythm game where you play along to the drum beats which fires your cadillac-mounted weapons at the pursuing undead. Genres from rock to death metal make up the track list, and there are plenty of real-world-celebrity inspired characters for your motley crew to meet.
Double Kick Heroes will release onto Early Access on Steam on April 11th.
There will be two main concerns you’ll have while playing Double Kick Heroes: killing zombies and hitting notes. The game simplifies things a bit by having these two elements addressed by the same system: the notes track. Along the bottom of the screen a series of notes will travel from right to left as you travel, in your car, from left to right. Hit these notes and your car will fire one of two guns. Which gun gets used depends on which button press you use to hit that note. Differing up your button presses will be necessary as the guns take care of the top and bottom lanes of zombies, so focusing on just one means the other can reach you.
Failure is determined by the enemies reaching your car three times, or failing to kill a boss before the song is over. At first this is easy, but as you progress through the game, assuming you’re on a difficulty above Rock, more elements come into play that end up creating a hectic balancing of spinning plates. New notes will travel along the track, requiring their own unique button presses and denoting unique actions. While this may sound simple, on the heavier songs it can get overwhelming, and mashing too much will overheat your guns and you’re left dead in the water for a few seconds.
Between songs the band will do missions for various survival groups, which are accomplished by playing the songs. It’s not a necessary element of flavor to give reason to play songs, but it’s an appreciated one. Along the way, you’ll meet characters based on real-world musicians like Marilyn Manson and James Hetfield. You can also take time out to talk to your bandmates and see how they’re doing. The writing here is not anything special, with a predictable set of beats and jokes you would expect a heavy metal group to be involved in.
The art style is beautifully realized with pixel graphics, using the art form not as a lazy way to “pay homage to old school games” but instead as its own medium, creating a modern look with old school tools. Enemy design is fun and varied, though you won’t really be looking at them too often, instead opting to keep your eyes on the tracks and hope that your bullets are doing their job.
Of course, the music must be mentioned. As stated previously, Double Kick Heroes focus on the heavy metal lifestyle, and the music you’ll play along to matches that aesthetic. Each track is unique and exciting, keeping pace with the action and really cementing this game as a heavy-metal-lover’s dream. Though not available yet, the developers promise the ability to upload your own songs where you can then customize the tracks and share with friends.
Double Kick Heroes is very promising, though a bit difficult. However, with enough practice, any of the challenges from the game’s 30 planned levels can be overcome. It’s a delightfully devilish, and devilishly delightful, experience that leaves one waiting for more. It should also be mentioned that it can be played with keyboard, controller, or even a Guitar Hero style instrument controller. I was only able to experiment with the first two, but both served me just fine (although it’s easier to hit the faster notes with keyboard, or pecking at the controller buttons rather than hitting them with thumbs).